Marvel’s Spider-Man Remake Review
need to know
what is it? A fantastic superhero simulator in a bland open world.
Expected payment: £50/$60
release date: August 12
Developer: Insomnia Games/Nixxes Software
Comment on: AMD Ryzen 5 3600, Nvidia GeForce 2080 Super, 32 GB RAM,
multiplayer game: Do not
Association: Official website(opens in a new tab)
I’m sure I’m having a hard time playing Marvel’s Spider-Man Remake with a keyboard and mouse. The exciting web wobbles and complex slugfest of Insomniac’s open-world Spider-Man game feel so tailor-made for a PlayStation controller that I can’t imagine how anyone would translate that into a PC’s traditional control scheme. However, not only is Spider-Man Remastered perfectly playable on a keyboard and mouse, it’s also superior to the PS4 experience in some ways.
Traversing the New York skyline has always been the best part of an Insomniac title – Ratchet & Clank Studios has provided possibly the best movement system in any game of the past decade. Traveling through Manhattan like Spider-Man on PC is just as enjoyable, only now you hold the left shift key to start and hold the swing, interspersed with deft taps of the space bar for small bursts of straight-line speed. But what really gives the PC version an edge is the addition of mouse controls, allowing you to glide through the tiny gaps between apartments and skyscrapers in a smoother way than using a pad. Spidey’s web swing is designed to make you feel like a seasoned superhero in his element, and the mouse makes it easier to inhabit that fantasy.
(Image credit: Sony)
The keyboard and mouse combat is also surprising, considering how complex Spider-Man’s fighting style is. Basic attacks are assigned to the left mouse button, and you can launch enemies into the air by holding down the button. Just about everything else is within reach of your left hand, from quickly hitting the E key to roll up enemies, to using the first few number keys to deploy special abilities like healers and battle finishers. The only notable console hangover is that Spidey’s networking features are selected from a selection wheel that pops up by holding down the middle mouse button. But not only does it quickly become intuitive to use, the fact that it pauses the action also gives you time to figure out your next move. It’s also worth noting that, as you’d expect, the controls fully bounce, so if you’re not happy with Nixxes’ control scheme, you can change it.
Nonetheless, the control adaptation is undoubtedly the most impressive element of the Nixxes port. Sadly, in the demo, Spider-Man Remake wasn’t all that proficient. The game definitely benefits from unlocked framerates, and the addition of DLSS allows you to hit this dummy to 4k and maintain a very smooth experience. But there are some persistent issues with the game’s ray-traced reflections, which look rather blurry in the game’s many puddles and glass windows. However, last-minute patches have addressed this issue to some extent, improving the performance and visual quality of ray-traced DLSS. It looks great when you’re flying over Times Square at high speed, but if you stop and pay attention, you’ll notice that reflections from surfaces like the body don’t look right.
It’s also worth noting that the patch adds support for three different AI upgrade methods. DLSS is already in the game, but the patch also adds initial support for AMD FSR 2.0 and gives you the option of Insomniac’s homebrew upgrade solution, IGTI. Of the three, DLSS is the only one that has a negligible impact on image quality. Both AMD FSR and IGTI make surface edges appear blurry, although support for FSR is still a work in progress.
(Image credit: Sony)
While good overall, the PC port isn’t a slam dunk. The game itself is largely the same. Spider-Man is a five-star character in a three-star world. Peter Parker is arguably the perfect video game protagonist – incredibly lovable and empathetic, powerful but not invincible, and outfitted with a very good traversal system that will make you want to explore every corner of Manhattan.
It’s important to highlight how good a web sling is.
It’s important to highlight how good Web Sling is and how much the wider game relies on it to grab your attention. It’s not just how the game encourages you to maximize every swing, arc through the air, do a backflip on the apex, and then drop to the ground before hitting the left at the last minute. That’s how Insomniac caters to all possible ways you can bring Spidey around the world. Not only can you climb up walls, but you can also sprint along them, jumping seamlessly from walls to swings. Run to the corner of the building and Spider-Man will automatically launch a web to swing around it, just as you swing around a lamppost to make a turn. There’s even a specific animation that has me running to the side of New York’s iconic fire escape, which blows my mind every time I see it.
It’s the most incredible animation you’ll ever see in a video game, and it all contributes to the sheer wish-fulfillment of Spider-Man’s first few hours. The opening sequence, which sees you fighting at the headquarters of Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin), is a riveting statement of intent that is both a stunning extended positioning and an impressively comprehensive tutorial. Afterwards, the game gives you room to enjoy your fantasy of being a friendly neighbor Spider-Man, zipping around the city, thwarting heists and heists, stopping car chases, and enjoying fan-flattering fanfare.
(Image credit: Sony)
However, as the game unfolded, it became clear that Insomniac didn’t really know how to fill out the open world. Many of the game’s side quests turn into simple icon chases, collecting backpacks, chasing pigeons, and playing hide-and-seek mini-games with black cats. Even the more action-packed optional content, petty crime, and larger, more challenging base battles, where you fend off waves of enemies, rarely detail their underlying premise.
The biggest shortcoming of Spider-Man is the failure to effectively use the wonderful villain lineup in the comics. Spider-Man may have the most memorable collection of enemies outside of Batman. But unlike Arkham games that use Batman’s enemies in the open world to make a huge impact, Spider-Man’s antagonists aren’t seen until the third act. An early chase sequence with Shocker shows off the potential of extorting open-world fun. But even that’s included in the main story, and you won’t see many of the other famous Spider-Man villains until near the end of the game.
Instead, most missions involve fighting one of three different armed thug factions. This wasn’t a problem in the early game, but if you think Arkham Knight stretched Rocksteady’s combat system to its limits, Spider-Man’s fist is hanging in the air after 25 hours. That’s impressive in a way, since the system isn’t entirely lacking in ways to dispatch these mercenaries, but it feels completely exhausting as you approach the finale.
(Image credit: Sony)
All in all, Spider-Man’s open-world design is a missed opportunity. But that’s not necessarily a deal breaker. Simply being Spider-Man is a lot of fun, and while Insomniac lacks attempts at open-world design, the studio’s approach to storytelling is excellent.
Older and wiser
In fact, Insomniac does a better job of telling Spider-Man’s story than anything in the MCU, using the extra scope that video games provide to add some proper depth to Spider-Man and the secondary cast. The decision to choose the slightly older Peter Parker was a no-brainer, and not just because it means Spider-Man Remake isn’t another origin story. It allows Insomniac to explore the mature relationships between these well-known characters.
For example, the existing history between Peter and Mary Jane is more interesting than another teen romance. It also led to some great scenes, like their first date at a New York cafeteria after their breakup (which included a cute Stan Lee cameo). The game also neatly weaves an origin story into the overall plot, establishing the relationship between Peter and Miles Morales, and setting up a young Spider-Man for his own adventure, set to take place later this year. Login to PC sometime. But the highlight of the game’s character drama is the relationship between Peter and Otto Octavius. The game spends a lot of time not only building their friendship, but also building their mutual intellectual respect. This makes Otto’s slow descent into a villain all the more tragic and effective, though we know where his character ends up going.
(Image credit: Sony)
That’s not to say Insomniac’s Spider-Man is an ugly thing. Spider-Man is as playful as ever in his fights, and the script is full of funny jokes, like a funny Spider-cop gag. (Incidentally, Spider-Man’s portrayal of the NYPD is very favorable, which may be unpleasant given the seemingly endless controversies involving US police forces and the wider debate about law enforcement practices). But in quieter, more serious moments, writing is just as capable. You get a real feel for Peter as he desperately tries to hold the city together and his own life falls apart, and while the game doesn’t do enough with Spider-Man’s roster of enemies, two of the villains it focuses most on are portrayed A very good opponent.
However, the story is not without flaws. The second act is too long and the third is too short. Playable Mary Jane sequences help give the characters greater agency, but even if you’re Spider-Man, Spider-Man isn’t a great stealth game. As Mary Jane, they get cramped, insta-fail stealth puzzles, poorly signposted, and easily the most frustrating part of the game.
But even at its most exciting, the game still has something irresistibly endearing about it. Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered may not be as comprehensive as Rocksteady’s Arkham games, which certainly include City and Knight. But when you’re walking through Times Square in the bright sun and New Yorkers staring at you from below, well, this is a superhero that even a caped crusader can’t beat.
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